SALISBURY – Faced with a shortage, the Blood Bank of Delmarva is joining forces with local hospitals and health care systems to raise awareness about the critical need for blood donations.
In response to a chronic shortage brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blood Bank of Delmarva (BBD) this week announced additional efforts to increase its blood supply.
The corporation is urging Delmarva residents to donate blood, or to host blood drives. The Blood Bank has also expanded hours at its donor centers, making it more convenient for people to donate.
“We’re asking blood donors to make appointments at our four donor centers …,” Tony Prado, communications specialist for the Blood Bank of Delmarva, said in a press conference this week. “This is all important because we would ideally like to maintain a seven-day inventory of all blood types for hospitals. That works for us. That’s the magic number.”
While temporary blood shortages are not uncommon during summer and winter holidays, the Blood Bank of Delmarva notes the pandemic has created a chronic shortage across the country and looming uncertainty surrounding its trajectory over the course of the winter.
Delmarva’s health care system requires 350 donations each day to treat patients ranging from trauma victims to newborn babies and their mothers to cancer patients, according to the Blood Bank. Prior to the pandemic, donors could stop by community blood drives at convenient locations. But nearly all high schools, colleges, offices and other community groups have had to cancel their blood drives due to COVID-19.
As a result, the Blood Bank of Delmarva is facing consistent shortfalls.
“The convenience factor of walking down the hallway while at work, getting out of class or donating after religious services is gone. Instead, we have to rely on people taking the extra step of proactively seeking out a place to donate. So far, that isn’t happening at the level we need,” said Andrea Cefarelli, senior executive director of recruitment and Marketing for Blood Bank of Delmarva. “In normal times, announcing a blood emergency would create a short-term increase in blood donations, but this will not solve this particularly difficult shortage long-term. This is an incredibly challenging time for our communities.”
In this week’s press conference – which featured pleas from local hospital directors and doctors – officials noted that mobile blood drives account for 40% of the Blood Bank’s collection, with high school and college blood drives alone accounting for 25% of collections.
However, overall mobile blood drive donations are just 43% of pre-pandemic levels – well below what is needed by hospitals and patients.
“Last year during the BBD Summer Challenge we saw nearly 900 blood donations from our hospital partners,” said Donor Recruitment Director Marie Forrestal. “COVID-19 restrictions meant just 300 donations and blood drives at just two hospitals. The scene is the same at corporations with only 500 corporate blood donors being able to give. Last year same timeframe we saw nearly 4,000 donations. Hardest hit are our high school and college donors. We have run just one high school blood drive since the pandemic started. This is catastrophic, not only for immediate donations but for the future.”
Forrestal explained that connections made during high school and college blood drives last a lifetime.
“The problem is when we lose these donors in high school, we never get them back …,” she said. “We’re losing a whole generation of donors during this pandemic.”
For more information on donating blood or scheduling a blood drive, visit delmarvablood.org. The Blood Bank of Delmarva said safety protocols, such as the wearing of face masks and frequent disinfecting, are currently in place.
“Our hospitals and the patients we serve depend on us to have lifesaving products available when the call to action is answered,” said Product Services Manager Megan Johnson. “BBD cannot be successful in our intent and ability to service our hospital customers effectively and efficiently without your continued support and partnership. This is where you the community is needed to help BBD through this continuing struggle.”